Saddam Hussein's stepson arrested in Miami
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A man believed to be the stepson of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arrested Wednesday in Miami on a visa violation, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Jim Goldman, the lead investigator at the INS district office in Miami, said that "all of the circumstances involved are pretty disturbing."
Mohammad Nour al-Din Saffi -- a citizen of New Zealand -- was interviewed at length by the Florida joint terrorism task force, made up of the FBI and INS, as well as state and local law enforcement authorities, said Jim Goldman, the lead investigator at the INS district office in Miami.
Late Wednesday Saffi was transferred to the Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade County.
Seen during the transfer, Saffi was wearing a dark blue short-sleeve polo shirt, khaki shorts, white socks and dark sneakers, and was carrying a gym bag.
According to Goldman, Saffi entered the country illegally to attend an aviation course to re-certify his license to fly Boeing 747s -- he did not have the necessary student visa. Saffi is an engineer for Air New Zealand in Auckland.
"He certainly didn't disclose his purpose for coming to this country when he was admitted by U.S. immigration at the Los Angeles International Airport -- it was only learned after the fact -- and that unto itself rendered him deportable from the United States," Goldman said.
"We verified his intent by going to the flight school and determining that in fact he was enrolled and was scheduled to begin these courses this week."
The United States tightened visa requirements for those attending American flight schools, following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington by terrorists flying hijacked planes. Several of the hijackers attended flight schools in Florida.
A U.S. government source told CNN early Thursday that the aviation school did check Saffi's immigration status -- according to government regulations -- on a Web site set up by the Department of Justice and he was cleared.
Goldman said Saffi entered the United States on Monday, arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. According to intelligence information developed overseas, Goldman said, it was learned that Saffi was Hussein's stepson.
A former U.S. government expert on the Persian Gulf told CNN that Saffi is the son of Samira Shabandar and her then-husband, Iraqi airline executive Nur al-Din al-Saffi. Hussein had an affair with Shabandar in the 1980s and Hussein convinced her husband to divorce her so they could marry. He was then promoted to the head of the airline.
It is not clear if Hussein divorced her, but he is believed to have married again and is believed to have had a total of three wives, the expert said.
Some of Samira's brothers were friends of Hussein during the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to the expert.
It is unclear what other links that Saffi has to Hussein, if any.
Saffi was interviewed by the FBI at a Doubletree Hotel in Los Angeles, according to Goldman, and Saffi told agents he was on a layover before flying to Miami for a 747 re-certification class at Aeroservice Aviation Center.
Following the interview, the FBI contacted INS officials in Miami to tell them Saffi was headed their way.
When Saffi arrived in Miami on Wednesday he was arrested at a Comfort Inn located near Miami International Airport and also near the flight school.
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